Some Thoughts on Reading

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I’ve loved reading since I was a kid. I would read anything I could get my hands on, from The Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High to Dean Koontz and Edgar Allen Poe. I loved the scholastic book catalog and trips to Waldenbooks at the mall where I would sit on the floor, surrounded by books until I was forced to leave. As a teen I discovered literature and poetry and soon I had a carload of books to pack up with every move in college and beyond. I always had a book with me, and would read any chance I got.

Then something shifted. My life as a mother, particularly in the baby days, didn’t leave me with much mental space for reading. If I was reading a book, it would take me a long time to get through it, and I would often finish it feeling meh. I had lost the ability or desire to lose myself in the story, fictional or not. This was the first time I realized that reading books is a skill, and spending time doing it is a choice.

So when my daughter was a toddler and life started to feel somewhat predictable again, I decided to return to books. I would make the time and try to rediscover my love of reading.

Setting a reading goal for myself felt like a fun way to stay motivated, so when January rolled around I resolved to read 12 books that year. This was before I was on Goodreads or keeping track in any sort of way, so I can’t recall what I read or how many books I read that year. But what I do know is this: my love of reading was rekindled and my ability to dive deep into a story was restored with each book.

Why I Read

For me, reading is a way to connect to myself and to humanity at large. I read to reaffirm what I already know, to discover new ways of understanding the world, to challenge my beliefs and privilege, to have adventures beyond the scope of my reality, to connect with the stories of other humans, to be entertained, to escape, and sometimes just to have fun.

When I read, I’m giving myself a gift, a little something that exists just for my own satisfaction. It’s not for or about anyone else. Reading connects me to my truest self, all the messy, complicated, romantic, intellectual, cynical, silly parts of me that maybe get set aside in my day to day life. To me, this is time well spent.

Making the Time

Last year I read an astonishing (to me) number of books. It was quadruple the amount of books I set out to read in my first reading challenge, and I had to ask: how did this happen?

Well, I decided to make the time.

First I looked at how I was spending my “leisure time” (quotes because as a working mom I didn’t feel like I had much time to spare). I quickly discovered there were pockets of time lost to social media, tv, and similar.

I almost always read before bed. This meant adjusting my bedtime so that I’m hitting the pillows before I’m actually ready to fall asleep. I also always read in the bathtub; it’s my favorite place to start a new book!

Another way I make time to read is by always having a book downloaded on my phone via the Kindle or Libby apps. Libby connects to your library card, and you can borrow ebooks and audiobooks alike. I’ve also started making sure I have an audio book downloaded – usually non-fiction – to listen to in the car or on walks. Pro tip: if I’m reading a longer print book, sometimes I will also borrow the ebook from the library. That way instead of losing 15 minutes to social media when I’m in a waiting room or early to school pick up, I can read my book.

Another shift: I gave myself permission to stop reading a book I didn’t love. My reading time is precious! I’m not going to squander it trying to get through a book that I’m not connecting with. Sometimes I put the book aside for another time; there are seasons and moments for books, and when the timing is off, it just doesn’t work.

some of my January/February books

My Reading Life Now

This year my goal is to read 50 books. I’m off to a strong start thanks to my February sabbatical. No job and a social media break have given me loads of time to read, and I’ve loved every moment of it. You can check out the books I’ve read so far this year on my Goodreads page.

A year or two ago, my friend Hannah shared that she was reading books via the Book of the Month Club. I was in another reading slump by then, now with two kids and a business in my life. I missed books, so this seemed like a great way to get excited about reading again. Plus we could talk about the books and trade!

BOTM highlights 5 books by contemporary authors each month, with a mix of genres and styles to choose from. It’s been a lot of fun discovering some new-to-me authors and genres. Hannah and I always text each other around the beginning of each month to compare thoughts on that month’s selections and share what we’re thinking of getting. We also chat and meet up regularly to swap books back and forth.

The March books for Book of the Month were just announced today. I’ve been excited for Daisy Jones & The Six and was thrilled to see it was included in the selections. If you’re interested, you can check out the selections here . 

I’m curious: do you identify as a reader? Why do you read? What’s your favorite book you’ve read in the past year?

Yarn Along :: Just Keep Knitting

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Tomorrow is my due date.  While in some ways it seems unbelievable that it’s already here, it also feels like it’s been such a long journey.  I am so looking forward to meeting this little guy, I’m practically buzzing with excitement!

In the meantime, I’m trying to knit, read, and cook all the things!  And catch up on tv shows, naps, and long walks. As a family we also have this sense of impending change as we go from a long-term trio into a quartet.  So we’re trying to soak up The Geeg and do all of the things we like to do together before things pause for baby. It’s a bittersweet time, this in-between an old life and the new one.

Knitting: Follow Your Arrow 2 ~ a mystery shawl knit along by Ysolda Teague. Ravelry notes here.  This has been the perfect distraction as I wait to go into labor! Knitting a mystery project is so much like waiting for baby. All I can do is take it one clue (or day) at a time and enjoy the process.

Reading: Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister.  I don’t know why I picked this up, other than I had a craving for a story about female friendship.  I’m happy to say it’s better (and way less sappy) than I expected.  It’s reading like a collection of short stories that weave the women together with a common friend who has challenged each of them to engage in a difficult area in their personal lives.

What’s on your needles and on on your nightstand this week? 

Yarn Along :: keeping things simple

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With the turn of the new year, and as I ready and wait for baby, I’m craving simplicity.  I want (and need) for things to be slow, simple, and easy.  My body is working very hard these days (38 weeks, whoa!), and my mind gets tired fast.  I need simple forms of entertainment and activity so I don’t get completely overwhelmed with all the changes that are coming!  This can be seen in my current knitting a reading : small projects, easy reads.

Knitting: Zuzu’s Petals in Freia Ombre Sport for the Stash Winter knit-along (join in on Ravelry here). Such a fun pattern, this is my second!

Reading: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.

My opinion isn’t fully formed on either of these books quite yet.  I will say I’m finding the tidying book inspiring if not a bit severe. But I do love her bottom line: keep only what sparks joy.  It definitely pairs well with the mindset of a nesting pregnant lady! I have already used her method to reduce and organize my clothes with success.  The novel is a fun candy bar read, perfect for where my mind is at right now.  It’s going fast, and I’m enjoying the characters and setting for what they are.

What’s on your needles and on on your nightstand this week? 

Yarn Along :: Kid Reads

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I’m still working away faithfully on my blue Cassis cardigan.  I’m pleased to say that I am now on the second sleeve so, with a couple more good knitting sessions, it should be off the needles this week!

That sweater is big and heavy now, so I cast on a little pixie cap for a friend having a baby this winter.  It’s much more portable and I’ve been able to knit it up quickly rows at a time. All that’s left is knitting the strap and choosing a charming button. Nothing like an instant gratification project when you’re slogging away on a bigger project!

Much like the big blue sweater, I am still working my way through Tell the Wolves I’m Home.  It’s such a great story told from the perspective of a young teen girl, although it’s definitely not YA material.  I’m enjoying the challenging questions and complicated relationships within the story as well.

G and I have been reading chapter books for about a year now.  Reading out loud together while snuggled up in bed has become a favorite part of my day.  We’ve worked our way through some childhood favorites, and have now found our way to Little House in the Big Woods.  She thinks it’s hilarious, what with the inflated pig bladder as a ball and the corncob wrapped in cloth for a doll.  I think it’s a good opportunity to talk about gratitude and being thankful for all that we have (including indoor plumbing and refrigerators).  I skip over the many parts where there’s an animal being butchered or hunted. We’re just not there yet.

There have also been a lot of graphic novels and comic books in our house these past months.  This is more the other mother’s territory, but I have found myself enjoying this Mouse Guard book.  It is beautifully illustrated, with quite the adventure set in a mysterious and often dangerous animal world.  There is some violence, which can be hard to skip over because of the pictures.  But it brings up good questions, and I enjoy talking through these things with the G.

Knitting: Vintage Pixie Cap from the book Vintage Knits for Modern Babies in Acadia by The Fibre Co. (Ravelry notes here)

Reading: Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Mouse Guard Fall 1152 by David Petersen

What’s on your needles and on your nightstand this week?

Yarn Along: I’m Baaack!

Well hello again, friends!  It’s good to be back.  So sorry to disappear on you like that, without any notice or explanation.  All I can say by way of excuse is that I was going through a hard time personally, felt stuck creatively, and couldn’t muster up the motivation to try to force it.

But that’s over now.

I’m going to ease back into the blogging with one of my favorite weekly traditions, Ginny’s Yarn Along.  During my hiatus, I thought about Yarn Along nearly every week.  And I read some of the other posts, and always gleaned a few new ideas for things to knit and books to read.  I’m almost always doing both, so this is the perfect platform for a little sharing.

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My blogging friend Katie Gibson is a formidable reader, moving along at an enviable pace. She posts regular updates and reviews on what she’s been reading, and I’ve often taken her lists along to the bookstore or library.  You can see her 2014 book list here.

She recently recommended a book by Jojo Moyes.  After looking through all of her titles, I decided to start with Me Before You.  When I picked it up at the library, I was a bit embarrassed to see that it had a romance sticker on the spine.  Not my typical genre, but I do enjoy a good love story.  So far, it’s not romancey in the heaving bosom sort of way at all.  It didn’t take long to get hooked, and now I can’t wait to read her other books!  Don’t you love it when that happens?

There have been a lot of baby knits on the needles the past couple of months.  Not only am I pregnant (yay!  more on that another time), but so are a couple of my friends.  After a first trimester with my head stuck in the toilet and zero knitting mojo, it’s a relief to be back with my wool and needles.  Here are two finished Puerperium cardigans awaiting buttons.  Both are knit in Madelinetosh, one in DK the other in Vintage for two different sizes.  This is a  fun, free pattern that takes just one skein of DK weight yarn. Win!

It’s good to be back, friends.  Thanks for stopping by!

Yarn Along: A Spree

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From Ginny: ~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs.  I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading?

I have been knitting and reading up a storm this winter. Something about the weather sends me to the couch in the evenings for knitting, curled up in front of the fire watching something on tv with my sweetie. And then to bed early to curl up with a book.  There has been plenty of both the past couple of months, and it feels really good.  Good to take care of myself and make time for the things that bring me comfort, peace, and creativity.

Currently I’m reading The House Girl. It’s a rich story of the complications of two women, generations apart: life as a young slave, and life as a young career woman.  There’s a lot of complexity to the story that I’m really enjoying, even early on.  I can’t wait to see how it all ties together.  Some other recent reads that have been a treat: DivergentLove Walked InBelong to Me.

My fall sweater has been seeing a lot of action recently.  I started this as part of a Stash knit along, but it got set aside in favor of another sweater and holdiay projects.  The Anzula For Better or Worsted is a dream to knit with; once I start, I don’t want to touch anything else!  So now I’m pointing my laser focus at it and trying to get the pieces finished asap.

And yet…I just wound up yarn for 4 new projects.  We’re heading out on a sunny vacation soon, and I may have gotten a bit carried away.  But you know what? Each of these projects has been on my mind for ages, so why not have the yarn, pattern, and needles ready to go when the mood strikes?!  I’ll probably take 2 with me on vacation.  Or 3. We’ll see.

Yarn Along:: Out of Hibernation

From Ginny: Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs.  I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. 
We went to the beach over the weekend with Sweetie’s parents. Knowing there would be a 4 to 1 ratio of capable adults to curious toddler, I figured my chances of getting some knitting done were pretty good. So I pulled out my Hooray Cardigan from last winter. This sweater was off to such a good start, and then something happened with the cables and it went into long-term hibernation. It did require about on hour of cable surgery (again), but now I am back on track and have divided for the sleeves. I seem to have a case of the sweater knitting lately, as I plan on casting on the Rocky Coast cardigan this week as part of our fall knit-along over at Stash.

I just started reading wild and am really enjoying it so far. I am not a backpacker by any stretch (there was that one time in Glacier that ended in me staying awake most of the night with fear and indigestion). Three chapters in, I am a loving Strayed’s writing and look forward to seeing where her adventure hiking the Pacific Crest Trail takes her next.

What’s on your nightstand and in your project basket this week?

Yarn Along:: Tardy to the Party

From Small Things:

Yarn Along~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs.    

I took this photo on Tuesday. Couldn’t find the USB Cable on Wednesday. Uploaded photo on Thursday & forgot to finish blog post. Friday: success!

This is the Cowgirl Butterfly Astronaut Vest, designed for the feminine yet wylie little lady in one’s life. I have one of those, and I have been daydreaming of layering her up in all sorts of wooly vests since the first hint of fall wafted through the air. It’s knitting up quickly (already up to the armholes), and I am really enjoying knitting with the Pico Accuardi Marco.

I started reading The Condition this week, and have been enjoying it so far. It’s another family drama full of charged relationships and flawed characters, one of my favorite types of books! There have been a lot of extremely early wake ups in our house since Daylight savings time fell forward (4 am early. For almost 2 weeks. Yawn…), which means I’m only reading a few pages each night before falling asleep with a paperback on my face. So I’m happily yet slowly plodding away at both my knitting and reading this week. Again, yawn…

What’s on your needles and nightstand?

The Book Nook

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been inspired to cut out some of the toy clutter in our home, fine tuning some play areas for Peaceful Baby (Toddler!).  There’s the kitchen play area, a box of musical instruments, baby care, and a small table for coloring and puzzles.  The most magical transformation, however, has to be the new Book Nook.

For a while now, I’ve had a few pillows on the floor, with a basket of books nearby.  This is where I would put our weekly booty of library books in an attempt to keep them from getting mixed in with our book collection.  Several times a day PB would sit there and flip through books on her own, or pull one of us over and pat the pillows, asking for a story.

One day, as I was rearranging things aiming for a more efficient and pleasant arrangement of toys and furniture in our living room, I gave an underutilized corner some attention.  There was already a light tube and a large eye hook above, and plenty of floor space below.  Not really room for furniture, but perfect for a cozy reading and resting spot. One store-bought canopy and a junk-drawer carabiner later, we had this:

This has turned out to be a very special, almost magical corner, where once there was nothing.  PB gravitates toward it not just for reading, but for playing with her babies and other toys.  And I find myself offering to read PB even more than before, because it’s just such a peaceful, happy spot!

Someone else likes it, too.

Oh, cats…

Happy July, friends!  I hope everyone has a restful and yarn-filled weekend.  And if you’re in the US, have a safe and happy Independence Day, too!

Yarn Along:: In Limbo

This is where my knitting and books go to be decided upon. As you can see, the dress is still thinking about what it did wrong, and I’m thinking I’m going to undo the bind-off and attach it straight to the ball winder.

As for that tall pile of books… Since I started participating in the weekly Yarn Along, my list of book recommendations has grown exponentially. I usually add interesting things to my library or paperback swap wish lists and just wait. Well this week several of my holds came into the library at once, and I was left with this pile of great books.  I’ve read the first few pages of all of them, but am struggling to decide which to give my attention to now and which can go back to the library temporarily.

I’m getting ready to head off to Idaho to visit my family and meet the newest member of our clan, baby M.  As always, I want to pack just the right combo of knitting and reading diversions!  Typically I like to keep it light on both fronts, with projects I can work on while talking or that can be picked up and put down without losing a critical place ona chart.
What are your favorite travel companions when it comes to knitting and reading?